Thursday, November 27, 2014

Legacy revealed

It wasn't in my plans for the week. But at 11:00 A.M. yesterday, I slipped into a pew near the back of the small sanctuary. I glanced to my left and, despite the circumstances, took delight in the fluffy flakes drifting down to earth. The tree-lined street and quaint older houses surrounding the church created a postcard-like effect. But as I turned my attention back to the matter at hand, the somberness of the situation became the new reality.

The family began to file in, taking their places in the front rows of the church as the pianist quietly played classic hymns. Among them, my son Seth, gently guided Claire, the love of his life, to their seats. It was in honor of her grandfather that all had gathered, "Shag," as he was lovingly dubbed for his dance-floor prowess, slipped from this life on Monday. Now it was time to remember.

I had only met Wellman Nash once. That was only two weeks prior. He didn't have a lot to say.
Wellman "Shag" Nash
Rather, he sat quietly on the couch watching the mayhem that accompanies a large baby shower. Having suffered a stroke in prior months, I suspect he was a bit more restrained these days. Still, he seemed content and happy. Perhaps he was pleased to allow his energetic wife, "Bunnie," to display enough energy for both of them.

My attention turned back to the platform. A man was singing a Merle Haggard song, Silver Wings, accompanied only by the mesmerizing chords sounding from his guitar. Many of those in this mostly elderly audience knew the tune, silently mouthing the lyrics. Then the pastor, a younger fellow, stepped to the podium to read and comment from 1 Thessalonians. It's a perfect passage.

It was time to sing. I picked up my hymn book and started to turn to hymn #10. But I really didn't need the words to How Great Thou Art. I know them by heart. Rather, as I contributed the tenor line to the congregational choir, I thumbed through the hymnal and noted it had been donated by "The Happy Class." I smiled at the prospect. Music is such a wonderful gift.

And then a nephew walked to the platform, drawing a deep breath as if to summon the courage to address the mourners. He knew Shag well, recalling sweet stories that reflected his character: kindness, selflessness, a love for family and fellowship, and loyalty. From my vantage point in the second row from the back, many in the audience chuckled quietly or  bobbed their heads in affirmation. But even as a relative outsider, I was drawn in. "I wish I would have known him," I mused.

As he continued on, the focus turned from mere stories to the reason for his legacy; the power of the Gospel. That saving Gospel of Jesus Christ made the difference. It allowed him to emulate his Savior in the way he cared for others. He gave of himself because Jesus gave of Himself. He practiced kindness because that's what Jesus would do. As the speaker offered his closing remarks, I was beginning to understand. I was beginning to know this man.

I paid close attention to the rest of the service. I listened carefully to conversations at the grave site and back in the fellowship hall at the church. Amid fried chicken, mac and cheese, and homemade desserts, it was the same story. Shag's life was a reflection of his Savior. Shag's actions and attitudes simply demonstrated his well-placed faith.

I presume Shag was not perfect. None of us are. But I heard nary a conflicting report. No dissenters. No underlying, "But you didn't know him like I did."

At the end of the day, I was refreshed. My heart sang, encouraged that the powerful, life-changing Gospel was well-represented in Wellman "Shag" Nash. That is quite a legacy.

May God grant His peace to those who mourn, to those who miss Shag deeply. But may Jesus Christ be praised.

Postscript- My own father left a tremendous legacy as well. I wish my children could have known him.

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